After being one of the great stories of the year, the Oakland Raiders 2016 season is finally over. While it did end in Houston, it didn’t end the way the Raider Nation had hoped it would. Instead of winning their first Super Bowl since 1983, they fell in the wild card round to the Houston Texans, 27-14. However the Nation shouldn’t be sad, because not only was 2016 a memorable season, it’s only the beginning.
Oakland Raiders 2016 Season In Review
The Oakland offense came alive in 2016. They ended the season as the sixth best offense in the NFL, averaging 373 yards and 26 points a game. Derek Carr had another good year, just missing 4,000 yards to go with his 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. With Carr under center, both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper managed to get 1,000 yards receiving. And between Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington, the Raiders rushed for over 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns.
As good as the Raiders were on offense, they can only get better. They led the NFL in drops this year, and with Murray likely leaving in the off-season, they’re bound to pursue additional skill players in the draft and free agency. The Raiders had to score a lot in 2016, and there’s a big reason why.
As great as the Oakland offense was, the defense simply wasn’t. They actually gave up more yardage per game than the offense was able to collect along with an average of 24 points per game. However, the biggest problem with Oakland’s defense was that only one man could rush the passer. While Khalil Mack had 11 sacks, the Raiders were the worst team in the league at getting after the quarterback, registering only 25 sacks as a unit.
The Great Wall
In all honesty, the driving force behind the Raider revival was their phenomenal offensive line. The skill position players are great and made plays too, but it was the offensive line that made things go. The team of Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson really made things go, with Austin Howard and Menelik Watson rotating at right tackle. They opened holes for the running backs and gave the passing attack time to develop plays.
It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Derek Carr is clearly the MVP of the Oakland Raiders, and there’s not an argument for anyone else. Khalil Mack has been a dominant pass rusher, but he couldn’t carry the team like Carr could. While Mack started slow and got on a hot streak late, Carr was the one carrying the team from week one until his fibula broke.
Without Carr, Oakland’s Super Bowl odds were literally 115-1. With him, they were the second seed in the AFC. There’s a funny argument that Carr is only good because of the weapons that he has, but people immediately abandoned the Raiders when he got hurt. If he was such a product of his weapons, how come the Raiders are so bad without him?
As much as anyone loves a positive, a negative is far more entertaining. While Derek Carr was the most valuable Raider, someone had to be the least valuable. Obviously the LVP isn’t someone like Taiwan Jones, who saw limited playing time for a reasonable price. The Least Valuable Player is the one who got plenty of playing time, plenty of cash, and failed to play good football.
And quite frankly, the LVP is safety Reggie Nelson. Despite being named a Pro Bowler, Nelson was a liability in coverage and against the run in 2016. According to Pro Football Focus, Nelson was the 38th best safety in coverage in 2016. Considering that he’s making nearly nine million dollars this season, Reggie McKenzie and company expected better play.
Some will argue that Sean Smith deserves this dishonor, but it’s simply not true. Even though he was terribly misused in Oakland’s secondary, he was still pretty solid for most of the year. Frankly, the only times he really got burned were when Reggie Nelson was supposed to be providing support and instead let the ball get behind him.
The Raider Nation must be devastated that this magical season has finally come to an end, but they shouldn’t be. They won 12 games. That’s more than they won total between 2012 and 2014. And this is just the beginning.
Carr is going to come back, healthy and better than ever. Reggie McKenzie will have another draft and free agent class, and all the elite Raiders are already guaranteed to return next season. Back in 2015, they learned to compete. In 2016, they learned to win. In 2017? They’ll learn to win more.